Bandstand of unusual theatre type, 1914 by the Borough Engineer, restored in 1999.
Reasons for Designation
The bandstand in Centre Vale Park, built in 1914 and restored in 1999, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as an unusual theatre type of bandstand of which fewer than 15 are known to have been built across the UK before the First World War, and for its rarity as the only surviving example known in England of this form of the type;
* as a good example of a bandstand designed for enhanced acoustics, with a tiered stage and soundboards behind and above the players, and retaining the majority of its functional features;
* enhanced beyond the functional with considerable decorative flair and ornamentation, mostly faithfully reproduced in 1999 and largely surviving.
At their peak there are thought to have been approximately 1,500 bandstands across Britain, with numbers now around 600. Permanent structures for playing music outdoors are known from at least as early as the C18, when the Vauxhall Gardens in London had a two-storey stone pavilion which included a top-storey covered ‘orchestra’ for musicians. By the late C18 this and similar buildings had decoration influenced by eastern rather than classical design. However, the first cast-iron bandstands of typical circular or octagonal form with columns and a decorative roof were erected in 1861 at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens in Kensington. Most typical bandstands had some form of movable screening (usually glazed timber but sometimes curtains) from the wind, but this would have little acoustic benefit.
Also in 1861, an orchestra was added to Sydney Gardens in Bath (the gardens being registered, National Heritage List for England – NHLE – entry 1001258). This had a theatre format, with an open front and sides but a curved rear wall to a raised stage. The stage roof continued its downward slope to the rear, protecting a small enclosed backstage area. Almost identical bandstands to this were erected in Trowbridge (People’s Park) before 1899, Rochdale (Falinge Park) in 1913, Accrington (Oak Hill Park), probably in 1929, and here at Centre Vale Park in 1914. Accrington’s has been rebuilt in altered form, and the other three demolished. No other examples are known to have been built. An example on the same principles, but with a half-dome roof and designed in an Indian style, was erected in Leamington Spa (Jephson Gardens) also in 1861 (demolished). Half-dome bandstands manufactured in cast-iron by Walter MacFarlane’s of Glasgow were erected in Bath (Victoria Park), around 1880 (NHLE 1394742), and Walsall Arboretum in 1924. Something similar to these is thought to have been built at Jephson Gardens in 1893 but was moved in 1909 and has since been demolished. Other theatre-style bandstands with masonry walls were built in Manchester (Heaton Park) around 1902, Jephson Gardens in 1909 (both demolished), Taunton (Wellington Park, 1903) and Birmingham (Summerfield Park, 1906). From the 1930s small numbers were built of concrete ‘shell’ type bandstands. Concrete rotunda were more popular, and some had rear walls.
When opened, this bandstand was painted in shades of grey. It was electrically lit, and contained a toilet and a retiring room for bandsmen to change and eat. The opening took place at 3pm on Friday 26 June 1914. The chair of the parks committee, Cllr JR Dawson, presided, and the bandstand was officially opened by the mayor, Alderman Robert Jackson, JP. Seating for 1,000 people was almost fully occupied, with hundreds more standing. Local newspaper reports noted that the size, style and situation of the bandstand had all received much criticism, but that following its successful inauguration all critics had been silenced. Its appearance and suitability for the purpose were much praised.
Speeches acknowledged the debt that its design (by the Borough Engineer) owed to the example in Falinge Park and so to an example in Bath, which representatives from Rochdale had visited (probably the Sydney Gardens example). George Miller, the conductor of the First Life Guards’ band (one of the best bands in the country, who played four concerts over the opening Friday and Saturday), called the bandstand excellent. He cited the way in which the design resulted in the same full mix of all the instruments being heard by any part of the audience, unlike circular bandstands. Newspapers also reported the excellent acoustics. The substantial cost (£420 for the bandstand itself, around £50,000 at 2019 prices) was also noted as too large for the local ratepayers to bear all at once, necessitating the council getting permission from the Local Government Board to borrow the money. The band of the Royal Marines was also engaged to play concerts in the following weeks.
The bandstand suffered a serious fire in 1999, and was repaired using the original plans (now reportedly lost, but reproduced on the 1999 drawings). The drawings indicate that most if not all of the timber was replaced, but that the cast-iron columns, steel frame, concrete base and stone-faced brick plinth were retained. Decorative timber mouldings were however surveyed and faithfully replicated. A photograph on page three of the Todmorden and District news of 3 July 1914 shows iron grilles beside the stage. In the late C20 the bottom grilles had been replaced by simpler balustrades. The present bottom grilles were installed after the fire to better replicate the original design. They differ slightly from the drawings, and from the originals, in having central diamond patterns, like the (original) upper grilles. There is no evidence that the grilles were ever glazed.
The original retiring room was accessed by a door to the rear left of the stage, which is not now present. A platform here (forming the ceiling of the toilet) probably replicates its original floor level, but this room was not replicated after the fire. As a backstage area it probably did not have decorative features.
A smaller fire also took place in 2005, after which the stage has been overboarded in plywood. More recently, lack of maintenance has resulted in some loss of the timber cornice, the stage-front and the rear wall, and further plywood has been applied to the front riser and the lower part of the back wall of the stage.
Bandstand, 1914, by the Borough Engineer, restored in 1999.
MATERIALS: cast-iron columns and steel frame, with timber coverings and a plinth of concrete, brick and sandstone.
DESCRIPTION: standing close to the north wall of Centre Vale Park and forming a key feature of the park and the conservation area within which the park is included, with views from vantage points on the surrounding hills.
The bandstand is of theatre format, generally rectangular in plan with an enclosed backstage area to the north, enclosed sides and an open front. The stage faces south and has tiered concave staging at the rear. The rear wall of the stage is also concave and is lined in vertical tongue-and-groove boarding (currently covered at low level with plywood sheeting). The front of the stage has a convex central projection flanked by short flat fronts. The riser is horizontally boarded (also currently concealed by plywood sheets), and divided into panels by vertical posts. Decorative newels flank the projection and rise through the balustrade. This is low and divided into square, pierced panels. The left section is missing, as are urn finials to the newels. Below the boarding is a moulded sandstone plinth.
The roof follows the plan of the stage front, but overhangs by more than a metre. It slopes downwards to the rear, its soffit being boarded above the stage. The front of the roof has a deep, moulded cornice with paired dentils, and the same cornice to the sides is also visible from the front. The roof is supported at each side by two cast-iron columns (one at the front of the stage and one set back approximately halfway, at the front of the tiered staging). Each of the front columns has a large decorative timber console applied to its front face. The columns have square upper sections and circular lower sections with square bases and capitals. Below the level of the stage, the columns are boxed-in with decorative timber.
The sides are horizontally-boarded above the stone plinth, with similar decorative timber to the front. Between the columns are an upper and lower panel of metal (probably mild steel), each with a diamond-patterned panel central within a rectangular grid. To the rear of the columns the boarding is full-height, with two rails and three posts forming nine panels. The three stage-level panels each have a window (now boarded) with decorative labels to the sill and head.
The rear is similarly treated, with horizontal boarding divided into three major sections by steel posts (one boxed-in, the other now exposed). The sections are further divided by smaller posts and rails. The central section has a glazed fanlight area over paired vertical-boarded doors, with temporary repairs covering parts of the boarding. The rainwater goods are cast in metal to traditional patterns, but missing their lower sections. The roof is covered with a liquid membrane.
Internally the below-stage area has exposed structural timber and masonry. A small winder stair accesses the stage to the left of the entrance. The roof structure is unboarded behind the stage, and the steel members visible. There is a small toilet cubicle to the right of the entrance, with modern fittings.